Cultural Appropriation

Cultural Appropriation

The line between appreciation and exploitation

In honor of the annual Coachella season’s commencement this past week, I’d like to once again highlight the discussion surrounding cultural appropriation. From bindis, through feathered head ornaments and dashikis, all the way to war paint, the festival’s fashion scene has it all. The issue here is not people being keen on sporting items of clothing or accessories that have symbolic connotations in certain cultures, but rather they, as members of a dominant group, often tending to exploit the heritage of marginalized ones without previous consideration.

One definition, as given by Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University, is, ‘’taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artefacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.’’

More often than not, these appropriations come in the form of a passing fad, be it twerking when it was ‘in’ not as a result of a newly found appreciation and understanding of African-American culture, but due to a music video featuring Miley Cyrus adopting it as yet another sign of her path to self-discovery. Or when cornrows and dreadlocks are admired and requested simply because individuals with large public followings like the Kardashians or Katy Perry were seen wearing them, and not as, for example, a protest against the stigma which exists of these hairstyles being ‘unsanitary’ and ‘unprofessional’. For black people especially, cornrows and dreadlocks can act as an immediate rejection when applying for a job, whereas for white people they are seen as ‘edgy’ or ‘unique’.

Changing or even getting rid of oppressive actions that have made their way into everyday interactions is no easy task. The Coachella debate for one, is not about denying people of different cultures the use of aspects of one which is not their own, but about doing it without a thought. Diversity in society is an inherently good thing, but it is not achieved through only paying attention to certain cultures when it is suitable, or when it benefits an individual who has no experience being a member of an ostracized group. If you know you’re about to use a symbol or an element of a culture which is not your known, learning about the context and its history can be the first step in avoiding contributing to cultural appropriation.
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12 Things You Pronounce Weird If You're From NJ

Our accents are just as big as our egos... and our hair.

All of my life, I never thought I had a Jersey accent until I went away to school in Pennsylvania. My Pennsylvanian friends have a field day when they hear the “weird” ways I pronounce certain words. I am constantly the butt of all the jokes and have been asked way too many times to pronounce certain words for others so they can hear how “weird” I speak, but if you’re from Jersey then you know what I mean when I say these things.

NOTE: The words in parenthesis are the way we say it. Which is also the correct and best way to say them.

1. Water (wader)

Okay, so maybe I say water a little differently than others, but this is the way my family has said it for generations. This one is sort of a dead give away. When I’m on vacation and ask for “water” people will always know where I’m from.

2. Drawer (Draw)

I’ve gotten into many screaming matches with people about this. It is a "draw"! This causes many fights between me and my roommate, but I know for sure I’m not the only New Jersian who pronounces it like this.

3. Coffee (Cawfee)

I can’t even explain this without getting angry. It is most certainly not pronounced “Cahfee.” I will fight to my death that coffee should just be spelled the way it’s pronounced which adds a nice “aw” sound instead of that harsh, awkward “ah” sound.

4. Pork Roll (Correct term: Taylor Ham)

Considering most people on campus here call Taylor Ham “pork roll” I am always outnumbered, but don’t think I won’t go to war on this. It is absolutely called Taylor Ham! No, it’s not just the brand. What is a “pork roll”? I assume if you call it pork roll you’re from South Jersey or Philly and I can also guess you don’t even know what real Taylor Ham tastes like. I’m sorry I’m getting way too heated typing this…

5. Dog (Dawg)

OK, I just don’t even know any other way to say dog without adding the typical “aw” sound to it. Is there any other way? I’m pretty sure us New Jersians are not wrong about this one.

6. Talk (Tawk)

This one speaks for itself (pun intended).

7. City (Ciddy)

First of all, when I reference the “city” I am always 100% talking about New York City. Never ever am I talking about Philly. Never. Maybe us Jersians confuse the letters “T” and “D” but you can definitely distinguish my New Jersey background anytime I say “city”.

8. You (Yew)

This term most usually follows a common curse word us New Jersians say frequently. Expect this phrase when you’re driving on the parkway in the summer trying to maneuver your way through the boatloads of shore traffic.

9. Sandwich (Sub)

It pains me when I hear someone go up to a counter and ask for a hoagie. It sends shivers down my spine and makes me question my existence. It’s a sub-short for submarine sandwich-where does the term hoagie even come from?

10. All (Awl)

My roommate truly enjoys making fun of me for this one. Commonly used in the phrase “awl of a sudden”. This is great for story-telling and helps create a dramatic mood.

11. Chocolate (Chawcolate)

The only thing I can say is it sounds a lot better than saying “chakolate.”

12. Jersey (Jerzee)

Please, please, please, and I seriously mean please, do not ever, under any sort of circumstance come up to me and say “Joisey.” I think I would rather have someone call Taylor Ham a “Pork Roll” and insult my favorite pizzeria than ever say that word. I can assure you that no one, and I mean not one person who is from Jersy says “Joisey.” I do however add a nice hard Z to my pronunciation. Sometimes we call it “Dirty Jerz” too.

But no matter what I call it: Jersey, New Jersey, The Garden State or whatever other amazing nicknames there are, my favorite thing to call New Jersey is home.

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Don't Touch My Hair! Sincerely, Fed-Up Black Woman

God gave me hair like wool if he wanted you to touch it, he would've given it to you too.


Yes, I know it looks literally as soft as a cloud but it also literally took me an hour to get it perfect so, please, do not touch it. Being a person of color in the society we live in is not the easiest. And for those who just said stop pulling the black card, it really is not the easiest. For a minute let's forget about, you know the historical context that simply makes the everyday bullshit worse. But imagine going out and not having anyone like you anywhere around or sitting in class and literally being the only familiar face around. When you finally see another person of color it's like finding a long lost relative.


Sorry, I'm getting sidetracked, back to the hair.

Society already does not support our naturally wooly hair. There are so many times that we are systemically forced to damage our hair to fit into this society. And yeah, we could simply rebel and wear our hair as we please but that decision comes with consequences. Imagine not getting a job because you simply "didn't look the part." There are plenty of times that a person of color will be denied a job due to the natural curls God has blessed us with. You could be the most professional and qualified person in the room but if a woman of color dares to walk in with her natural curls flowing or an African American male had his dreads nicely kept, we will be denied that job because of the ideal "picture" based on a societal standard we simply cannot achieve. At least not in a healthy manner or without risk of permanently damaging what God gave to us.


I speak from personal experience. As a young girl, I remember being jealous of all the caucasian girls in my class who had long hair all the way down their backs. Now I had hair but it was thick and my mother, being a busy working single mother, had no clue what to do with my hair and so one day she had a relaxer put in my hair. Reason being that is what society at that time said to do to our hair to have it be "socially" acceptable. I went from nice thick luxurious hair to barely any breaking off and unhealthy. This was until I remembered a song I used to listen to a lot, "I'm Not My Hair" by Indie Arie. Crazy that a song can have such an effect on your outlook but that song taught me to love my curls and dare to do what we call the "big chop." (Yes, that means basically cutting off most of your hair.)

Because prior to that my self-confidence had gone down the toilet, being the only black girl in my class whom now had brittle damaged hair. Picture days were the worse. Our hair is our crown that compliments the rest of the blessings God has bestowed upon us. I won't speak for anyone else but I do not feel like myself when my hair is not happy and healthy. Yeah, it might just be hair but the symbolism of it means alot to most of us. (Or we wouldn't spend have as much as we do to take care of it.)

So not only can our hair affect our ability to get a job but also our confidence.


I know what you're thinking its just hair. Track with me for a moment, imagine a female cancer patient. Extreme example, I know but follow with me here. The loss of hair can be one of the hardest things for a cancer patient to deal with, who is already loosing so much. Is it so much of a stretch for a group of people who have already lost their culture, their land, their ancestry and so much more from the cancerous effects of colonization to feel the same. I have been natural for over six years now. When I do put in the work to do my hair sometimes it can take up to days.

That is a lot of work and time for a college student who barely gets any sleep half the time. I can imagine I am not the only one who feels this way. So please next time you think about touching someone's luxurious wooly curls, think twice. This was alot of work literally and figuratively.


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